Trump administration suspends start-up visa programme in fresh move to restrict immigration

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 2:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 2:32am

The Trump administration said it plans to rescind an Obama-era programme that would allow foreign entrepreneurs who launch startup companies in the US to live in the country, in the president’s latest effort to constrict immigration flows.

Known as the International Entrepreneur Rule and favoured by many in the technology industry, the programme would allow non-US citizens who launched companies that won US$100,000 in government grants or received US$250,000 in venture capital investment to stay in the US for a renewable 30-month term. Finalised in the last days of the Obama administration, it was set to take effect July 17.

But the Trump administration on Monday announced it would delay the programme until next March as the Department of Homeland Security launches an additional review of the so-called “startup visa.” A notice the department issued indicates that in the interim the administration will propose rescinding the programme.

“Big mistake,” Steve Case, founder of America Online and now chief executive officer of the Revolution LLC investment fund, said in a Twitter statement. “Immigrant entrepreneurs are job makers, not job takers.”

The National Venture Capital Association, an industry trade group, criticised the step in a statement.

“At a time when countries around the world are doing all they can to attract and retain talented individuals to come to their shores to build and grow innovative companies, the Trump administration is signalling its intent to do the exact opposite,” Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the trade group, said.

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It’s the latest example of the Trump administration taking a step to restrain immigration to the US despite objections from business groups.

The president’s ban on travel from six Muslim majority companies drew criticism from a wide swath of companies, with more than 160 technology firms, including Amazon.com, Facebook, and Google corporate parent Alphabet Inc joining a legal brief criticising the executive order. Technology firms have also criticised the administration’s efforts to restrict access to H-1B visas for high-skilled workers.

The move is also likely to draw the ire of some of the president’s allies on Capitol Hill.

A group of Republican senators last month sent Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly a letter calling the rule consistent with the administration’s “goals of stimulating the economy and creating job growth at home.”

“There is little benefit to losing any more ground in attracting entrepreneurs and their investments,” the senators, which include Arizona’s John McCain and Jeff Flake, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, and Jerry Moran of Kansas, said in the letter.